Whakapapa

Whakapapa

Overall Rating

Whakapapa

Whakapapa3.5/510
Whakapapa3.5 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
  • Recommend
    90%
  • Would Revisit
    80%

Whakapapa - Reviews

Whakapapa - Reviews

Pinnacle

29/05/2020

LEXUSki

Powder Puppy
Powder Puppy

LEXUSki

Powder Puppy
Powder Puppy
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    12-17
  • Month Visited:
    August
  • Admin Rating
    3

Pinnacle

29/05/2020
I've been skiing NZ since I was 5, but only started at Whakapapa a few years back when accomodation favoured that direction of travel. It has more terrain than Turoa but is busier and has older lift apart from the Sky Waka. Both sides have a mix of terrain, but Whakapapa has more as well as a big wide area out west. Whakapapa doesn't have a base town but has the Chateau, as well as a town, National Park, about 20min further than that.
It still has it's share of powder, but it mostly hard pack and ice. I've seen canada cordon off some "ice" that was about the same as the hardpack over here. The sun rises for Whakapapa before Turoa so the ice softens here first.

Watch the Weather and Go When Its Clear

Chris Leshock
04/12/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    August
  • Admin Rating
    5

Watch the Weather and Go When Its Clear

Chris Leshock
04/12/2018
Amazing view of the Pinnacles from inside the Knoll Ridge lodge near the top of the mtn.
Headed up the Waterfall Express chairlift to the Knoll Ridge lodge.
On the Pinnacle Valley run, with the resort base area down in the fog/clouds below us.
Looking at the top of the Valley Ridge t-bar in the background.
Here comes the fog and rain after the beautiful morning bluebird skies.
Whakapapa (yes its pronounced "Fakka-Papa") is a great ski resort the day we went in August of 2018. Light rain down low at the access road opened up to bluebird skies as we rode the first chair up. Conditions were stellar, dry, crisp powder abounded everywhere as the upper part of the mountain had been closed for several days due to weather. We enjoyed two fantastic hours of skiing before the clouds moved in, and then it happened...it started to rain. Rained for an hour, while we had lunch at the Knoll Ridge lodge, which has the most impressive window views I have ever seen from a ski lodge.

The lifts are good, but lots of poma and t-bars, but they get you to some great terrain. The lower mountain has more crowded chutes and narrow passages, which were not an issue on a sparsely attended mid-week day. Newer lifts are planned for the future.

Weather is a big issue for this resort as its all above tree-line. If its storming or even cloudy, the top half of the mountain remains closed. Even in good conditions, like the day we were there, the western side of the mountain never opened due to "ice".

We had hoped to ski the prior two days, but stormy weather kept the top half of the resort closed, so we did not go. Day three proved to be the charm. The night before the resort predicted poor weather again, but at 6 am they changed the forecast to sunny, and we loaded up the van and drove to mountain and had a great morning of skiing. So you need to be flexible on your planning, and be able to strike when the weather clears. We stayed in Taupo area, which is just over a one hour drive away. Lots to do in Taupo, a good location to stay and do river rafting, boating, or hiking on days you are not skiing.

I would not go to New Zealand solely to ski, as the ski resorts are not that big, most/all of the skiing is above tree-line, and the weather conditions too variable. But I would try to get in a couple of days if you are in the area. You just need to be flexible and wait for good weather.

An update on the Magic Mountain

Ashton
14/10/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    51-70
  • Month Visited:
    August
  • Admin Rating
    4

An update on the Magic Mountain

Ashton
14/10/2018
Well, the powderhounds main article is now well out of date, so I thought I'd add a "local rider" update.

Its often said that if you learned to ride at Mt Ruapehu, you can ride pretty much anything, anywhere. This is due to the tenacity, endurance and range of skills needed to get consistent riding on this mountain. It rewards people who don't give up or scare easily!

First, there are not many places you get to ride on a live volcano, so take the chance at Mt Ruapehu if you want to tick this off your bucket list. Also, if you are a hobbit fan, this is where a lot of the Mount Doom sequences were shot so you can live out your LOTR fantasies here as well.

Whakapapa spans the elevations between 2200m and 1640m. Access is by a sealed two-lane road that is generally easy driving but extreme caution is required in freezing conditions when it ices up - not benign northern hemisphere snow, but hard, blue ice that will spit you off into the volcanic wastelands.

The lift system is now updated and undergoing further change in 2018/19. Happy Valley is the learner area - I will leave that undescribed.

The access lift to the main field until the end of the 2018 season is the Rangatira (Maori for chief or leader). It is a decoupling four-seater shifting about 2,000 passengers an hour at peak to Hut Flat which is effectively the bottom of the intermediate/advanced area.

During the summer 2018/19, RAL (the skifield operators) are installing a gondola that will move about the same numbers from the base at 1640 to Knoll Ridge Cafe at around 2000m.

From Knoll Ridge Cafe, its a short run to either the Valley T-bar (skier right of the field), or to Knoll T-bar which rises through the middle of the field. Slightly below the Knoll T-bar is the Delta chair - a slowish fixed four-seater that services a beginner/intermediate area.

Knoll T-bar and Delta chair both give access to the "west" on skier left of the field. This area is serviced by a slow fixed quad chair and a T-bar that takes you to the top of the field.

Side and backcountry is accessible either side of the field as well as above - its a 240m boot from the top of the Far West T-bar to the crater lake which, in good weather, is rewarded with views to either coast of the North Island and a fun descent. In bad weather or after a big freeze you need serious alpine experience, ice-climbing skills and gear. Always check in with ski patrol before attempting the climb.

At this altitude and in a maritime climate there is not a lot of powder to be had. Spring delivers the best with corn mixed with wind-blown loose snow. However, a storm can blow all the cover off leaving sheets of ice that even a jack-hammer can't dent. Expect "variable" to be your key descriptor.

Whakapapa is hell busy in weekends, so don't even. But during the week, you can effectively have the field to yourself if its open. Which brings us to...

Unreliable operation. RAL is almost universally understood to mean "Ready After Lunch". A mix of weather conditions that generate huge ice loads on the lifts, and a somewhat casual (some say indifferent) approach to customer service means the field can be slow to open or extraordinarily optimistic in its daily conditions reporting.

But, on a good day Whakapapa offers a variety of challenging terrain, fantastic views, reasonable lifts, and not a lot of competition for lines (as long as its not a weekend).

There are 50 club lodges on the field at Whakapapa and yes, they almost all welcome non-member guests, so you can stay on the mountain and get the ski-in, ski-out experience and not have to drive each day. An almost-complete list of the clubs and their websites can be found at http://rmca.org.nz/member-clubs

pikey

warren
19/04/2016
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    June
  • Admin Rating
    1

pikey

warren
19/04/2016
fantastic country new Zealand cant wait to return

Whakapapa - No

Chris
13/08/2015
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Admin Rating
    4

Whakapapa - No

Chris
13/08/2015
Whakapapa is the resort you go to for the views.

The resort has consistent snow for August to September, has amazing views and offers a variety of terrain - predominantly intermediate to advanced (expert is off-piste mostly).

The problem with the resort starts with the weather, stops off with access and trail marking and finishes with grooming.

Weather (wind and ice) will shut down the resort around 2 days a week during winter. (Shut down being no lifts operating or basic lifts operating).

Access is restricted by a single, 2-seater chair access to base camp. This 2-seater is a constant bugbear, long queues in the morning, all the while you see another 2-seater parallel - not functioning and a possible 4-seater (accessing a different area of the resort) shut down.

There are whispers in the wind that these two chairs are open, shut or never opening. But as a powderhound you wonder why they don't just rebuild them in the summer. (Australian resorts generally disassemble and rebuild in 1 summer).

Trail marking is horrendous - and you don't appreciate this until you are skiing with an intermediate. Rarely do you see a sign informing you of a runs difficulty, and if you go to the bottom of certain runs (looking groomed) you come across a sign informing you of expert terrain. And this is systematic of the signage right across the resort.

The grooming is bad. There are frequently areas that are part of a run, that have been ignored by the groomers. This (with the weather) is amazing when the snow is fresh but for the other 75% of the days is iced over and horrible. The groomed areas generally provide direction to intermediate and tourist skiers, at Whakapapa - no.

Overall the snow at Whakapapa is good, the powder and snow level for NZ can be amazing. However the rush of people combined with the lift access, choke points and lack of professional grooming leave this powderhound preferring Australian skifields - HOW CAN THIS BE?

Off-piste from what I have been told is amazing, note to those skiers; do it after a snowfall, before it ices over.

Fairly child friendly, Whakapapa has a designated beginners area with free lift access. The 'take off skis/board' policy on the lift confused me - how are beginners to learn their way around a lift before being choked at the 2-seater?

Value was great, 2015 - NZD$450 for 5 days, anytime in the season. ie. you can ski a day in July, 3 in August and 1 in September if you so desired.

Nightlife is non-existant.

Overall, don't visit on a weekend, it's even busier - but perhaps check it out once in your powderhound career for the views (AMAZING) and the different trails.

This powderhound would prefer the shorter runs and worse snow of Australia, and would strongly suggest NZ South Island as the pick of Oceania.

Whakapapa

Ant
30/12/2014
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Admin Rating
    4

Whakapapa

Ant
30/12/2014
I have skiied at this resort for over 10 years and have skiied many other resorts around the world.

Ruapehu's isolation in the centre of New Zealand's North Island is a double edged sword; it has fantastic views and terrain however it is also very exposed to the weather. There are a high number of closed days, especially earlier in the season.

Without trees, in low vis there are few reference marks and the jagged volcanic boulders require a lot of snow to cover them so the season takes a while to get going.

The weather tends to settle down a bit in the spring and this is when the mountain really shines. Spring skiing is world class with long sunny days on softening snow and a huge variety of terrain.

Currently all of the top lifts are T-bars. In the mid mountain are a couple of quad chairs. The lower mountain is serviced by a couple of ageing fixed grip double chairs. There are plans to upgrade some of the lifts. The beginners area (happy valley) is good but can get crowded. The cafes and the service in general is good.

All lifts stop below the 2300m mark as above this is the summit volcanic hazard zone. The volcano is constantly monitored and it is usually safe to hike up above the lifts to the crater lake (2600m). Whakapapa and Turoa are not connected however for those who are keen it is possible and not too hard to hike to the crater from the Whakapapa area and ski down to Turoa (with a guide), but much harder to do it the other way (I've done it both ways).

Overall I'd recommend Whakapapa for spring skiing.
Try the South Island for pow earlier in the season.

Great for beginners and advanced alike

Monique
04/09/2014
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Intermediate
  • Rider Age
    12-17
  • Admin Rating
    2

Great for beginners and advanced alike

Monique
04/09/2014
I was a beginner when I first snowboarded at Mt Ruapehu and the lesson I got really helped me to get started and into the sport. Happy valley (the slope for beginners) was a challenge at first but was great to learn on, and the more advanced slopes are great for challenges and to improve.

Would definitely recommend going to anybody thinking about it.

Has just as much snow as Turoa despite what their "Single Snowstake Measurement" says

Brendan
14/10/2012
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Admin Rating
    4

Has just as much snow as Turoa despite what their "Single Snowstake Measurement" says

Brendan
14/10/2012
Learnt to ride on Whakapapa as a Kid, even got to ride it when it was erupting (back in 1996 I believe) and still go back every season. I love smashing as many runs as I can on the Waterfall Express and bombing down through Black Magic off the Far West T. The Cirque is awesome, as is the Amphitheater and there are some cool little Gullies under the West Quad.
Get some awesome days every season and this has been no different.

The Tbars take a bit of getting used to but serve a purpose, they stop Beginners crowding the upper mountain. Sometimes the Centennial Chair and the Rockgarden Chairs will have big lines (usually a combination of lack of instruction, organization, beginners and slow lifts to blame) but once you get up to the Knoll Ridge everyone spreads across the Ski Field resulting in you being able to just ride straight back onto the Valley T, Knoll Ridge T and Waterfall T although other weekends you can end up queuing up for a bit. This season they have had a fairly decent park up in the middle of the Valley next to the Tbar line but there hasn't been a Halfpipe at Whakapapa for a number of years. Happy Valley is a separate beginner area with it's own Cafe and rental Area, it has a Chairlift and Magic Carpet and is fairly sheltered and enclosed. Safe place to learn before testing yourself further up the Mountain.

Good mixture of Blue and Black runs on the Upper Mountain with a good variety of terrain. About 45mins off the Far West Tbar you can hike up to the Crater Lake at the Summit and take in the amazing views of Nation Park and the Central Plateau and then ride all the way back down to your car. Definitely recommend doing it at least once and on a sunny weekend there is often a trail of people all hiking the crater.

Weekends and School Holidays can be busy so it always pays to pack your patience. Weekdays can be deserted or packed with every Aucklander and Wellingtonian who phoned in to work sick that day just to score some "freshies".

The North Island Season lasts longer than the South Island so quite often I score loads of great days during Spring. Whakapapa closes at the end of October this year while Turoa will close early November.

I usually stay in National Park township which is 20mins from the top of the Bruce Road (the fully sealed access road that goes up to the Ski Field) in and has a range of Accommodation options from Backpackers to Cabins but not much of a nightlife although there a couple of bars. Ohakune is more the spot for that kind of thing but I go down to Snowboard not hang out in a bar.

Great thing is the passes are valid for both sides and the weather can vary between the two Fields, wake up and check each report and then pick which side you want to ride.

Whakapapa

06/11/2011

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Admin Rating
    3

Whakapapa

06/11/2011
Whakapapa is a great resort for those interested in something different. Compared to its sister resort Turoa, it offers better views, slightly more varied terrain, more runs (67 compared to 40) and more lifts (14 compared to 8). It has better (and quick!) access, and offers on-mountain accommodation (albeit only for the lucky ones who own a private lodge or who are members of a NZ school or ski club). It also has a great name!!

Turoa, on the other hand, has wide, open pistes, which makes it ideal for carving, and the snow seems to stick around for a bit longer, thanks to Turoa’s south-westerly position. Whilst the access road is annoyingly long and winding, and rather narrow, once you’re there and weather permitting, you’ll have a fantastic time. The lifts are fast, the queues are short, and if you’re into glaciers, the views at Turoa won’t disappoint, either.

Whakapapa

Kara
23/07/2010
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Admin Rating
    3

Whakapapa

Kara
23/07/2010
The mountain is brilliant. The staff are awesome. The lifts are ok but there are too many T Bars on the upper mountain. Facilities such as cafes and toilets are pretty shabby..sorry Whakapapa, but on a crappy day, it sux having to eat your lunch out in the snow (if you're lucky) and rain because the cafes are too small to accommodate everyone..so that can be frustrating, and queues that go out the toilet door then out the door to the cafe sux..Otherwise, it's alllll good. Love turoa too!